Karat talks of ‘third alternative’
New Delhi, April 11
Talking to The Tribune at the party headquarters here this afternoon, soon after his unanimous election to the post, Karat, youngest General secretary of the party, said: “there would be no immediate change in the party’s stand on the UPA. We want the Congress-led UPA Government to address the issues listed in the Common Minimum Programme.”
Asked about the generational change in the party, he said “our party believes in collective leadership and Indian Communist movement’s living legends, Harkishan Singh Surjeet and former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, who are members of the politburo, would guide the party.”
The fourth general secretary of the party, which was formed after the Communist split in 1964, pointed out that “our leaders, unlike in other parties, do not want to cling to a position.”
When asked whether the party would undergo major changes due to his strong ideologicially rooted stance, the new general secretary said, “I am not a hardliner. It is a media perception.” He said the party believes in collective leadership.
Later addressing an impressive rally marking the conclusion of the 18th party congress in the Capital, he said, “Our party has shown that there can be an alternative, which will work for the people. We don’t want alliances led only by the BJP or the Congress. We want a third alternative to emerge.”
The CPM, he said, had “decided to evolve a common programme with other secular and democratic parties to move towards a third front”.
Warning the Congress-led UPA government against pursuing the economic liberalisation policies of the erstwhile NDA regime, Karat said “after evaluating the performance of this government for last ten months, we find that whatever promises have been made to the people have not yet been fulfilled”.
Prakash Karat — a profile
New Delhi, April 11
He takes over the leadership of a party that is one of the biggest leftwing outfits in the shrunken non-Communist world.
Karat takes over from Indian Communist movement’s `living legend’, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, who had been the General Secretary for 15 years. Surjeet who took to politics as a teenager in Punjab was often seen as kingmaker in the country’s coalition politics.
The generation-next Karat, 56, takes over the reins of the party at a time when the CPM along with the three other Left parties are giving crucial support from outside to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.
Every move of Prakash Karat, considered more of an ideologue lacking the political skills and contacts needed to interact with leaders of non-Communist parties, would be watched as any step by the CPM would have larger implications not only on the stability of the government at the Centre but also the financial markets.
Karat, whose tough line on the party not accepting the Prime Ministership when it was offered to Basu in 1996 to head a United Front government earned him the sobriquet of hardliner.
Karat joined the CPI (M) in 1970 and was groomed further by the legendary E M S Nabmoodiripad and worked as aide to another veteran A K Gopalan.
A former student leader who was rusticated from the University of Edinburgh for anti-apartheid protests, Karat was spotted and groomed by veteran E.M.S. Namboodiripad while studying at Jawaharlal Nehru University here.
He has always shunned media glare and remains content behind the scenes.
Despite enjoying the trappings of power in states and in New Delhi off and on, Karat remains the puritan Marxist, refusing to bind his CPI-M to any alliance if it means diluting its ideological moorings.
Party leaders say Karat, who was born in 1948 in Myanmar, is more influential in the CPI-M than is widely believed.
Married to social activist and party colleague Brinda, who was today named one of the four new politburo members, Karat was drawn into the Left movement in the 1960s, as a student in the Madras Christian College.
He later went to the University of Edinburgh. He was rusticated there for anti-apartheid protests but taken back on good behaviour.
At Jawaharlal Nehru University he founded the Students Federation of India and joined the CPI-M in 1970.
Karat worked underground for one-and-a-half-years during the Emergency rule of 1975-76 imposed by then prime minister Indira Gandhi and was arrested twice.
Karat was elected Secretary of the Delhi State Committee of the party in 1985 and to the Central Committee in 1985 and the politbuo in 1992.
Besides being a Marxist ideologue, Karat is also managing director of LeftWord Books, a publishing house, and has authored books such as “Language, Nationality and Politics in India”, “A world to Win” a compilation of essays on the Communist Manifesto and “Across Time and Continents: A tribune to Victor Kiernan.”